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Imagining Los Angeles:
A City In Fiction (Western Literature Series)

by David Fine

ISBN 0874176034 / 9780874176032 / 0-87417-603-4
Publisher University of Nevada Press
Language English
Edition Softcover
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Book summary

The history of a major city is examined through the work of the authors who defined it in our imaginations.

The literary image of Los Angeles has evolved since the 1880s from promotional literature that hyped the region as a New Eden to contemporary visions of the city as a perplexing, sometimes corrupt, even apocalyptic place that foreshadows and reflects all that is wrong with America. In Imagining Los Angeles, the first literary history of the city in more than fifty years, critic David Fine traces the history and mood of the place through the work of writers as diverse as Helen Hunt Jackson, Mary Austin, Norman Mailer, Raymond Chandler, Joan Didion, Carolyn See, and many others. His lively and engaging text focuses on the way these writers saw Los Angeles and used the image of the city as an element in their work, and on how that image has changed as the city itself became ever larger, more complex, and more socially and ethnically diverse.

Fine begins with the mythifiers Helen Hunt Jackson, author of the quintessentially romantic Ramona (1884) and Mary Austin, whose 1917 novel The Ford was the first fictionalization of the theft of water from the Owens Valley that became famous sixty years later in the movie Chinatown. He devotes chapters to both early and later Hollywood novels, to crime and detective novels, and to immigrant, ethnic, and apocalyptic fiction, paying detailed attention to the fiction of Upton Sinclair, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, John Fante, Nathanael West, Aldous Huxley, Budd Schulberg, Christopher Isherwood, Alison Lurie, Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, Thomas Pynchon, Walter Mosley, James Ellroy, Kate Braverman, and Carolyn See. The citys history, its architecture, even its disasters are all part of the story.

First published in 2000, Imagining Los Angeles is available now for the first time in paperback. This is essential reading for anyone interested in the literature and changing image of Southern California. [via]